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The Brotherhood of the Wolf (Le Pacte de Loups, 2001)

-Review by Nic Brown-

Classifying Brotherhood of the Wolf is difficult. It could be called historical-drama,-horror-Kung-fu-political thriller-romance-mystery and it wouldn’t be missing the mark on by much. This melting pot of film genres was intentional as Gans was looking to appeal to the broadest possible audience. This tactic seemed to work as the film was well received in Europe both critically and at the box office. In fact the film did so well that it received a wide theatrical release in the United States, not something that many French films are able to accomplish. The story set, in 18th century France, is based on the legend of the Beast of Gevaudan. The Gevaudan region of southern France experienced a rash of extremely brutal killings that occurred from 1764-1767. There were over 100 recorded deaths and disappearances during the period and witnesses reported that the killer was a giant wolf, the Beast. Whether it was truly a werewolf, giant wolf, or as is often speculated, the work of one of the first recorded serial killers; may never be known for sure. None the less, the killings definitely created an air of near panic in that region of France. Forcing the King to take action.

 

The film follows Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan) a naturalist/investigator sent by the King to kill the beast. Grégoire is accompanied by Mani (Mark Dacascos) a Native American Shaman and friend. When they first enter the region, Grégoire and Mani come to the aid of a couple of villagers being beaten by soldiers out looking for the Beast. The fight scene really shows off the martial arts prowess of Mark Dacascos and if you are lucky enough to have the extended version on DVD you also see the Samuel Le Bihan is not to shabby in that department either. From this point the viewer is lead through a complex web of political/religious intrigue as Grégoire’s investigations reveal the Beast is real, but also that it may not be acting alone, other forces may be controlling it for their own ends.

 

Milie Dequenne plays Marianne de Morangias, daughter of the local lord and Grégoire’s love interest. Her performance is excellent as is the development of her character which shows a strong willed young woman who goes above and beyond the limits placed on her by her society at that time as she helps Grégoire and Mani in their quest.

 

Ultimately, though I truly love this film, it is the complex and detailed nature of it that may have caused it to falter at the US box office. The very fact that you could not neatly classify the film as a historical drama, a romance, a political thriller, a horror film or a kung-fu movie, made it difficult for it to attract an audience in US theaters.

 

This is a shame because despite its length and complex plot (and believe me you do have to pay attention to this one to know what is going on) this film is incredibly fun to watch. The fight scenes (and there are plenty of them) are well choreographed and play out well. The acting is first rate, with outstanding performances by all of the cast (although I’m still not convinced Mark Dacascos speaks French). One of the big treats is the cinematography, the film is shot very well with some of the most creative scene changes I’ve seen (one especially good one goes from following the curves of a woman lying in bed to the snow covered hills around the area in an subtle change that happens almost without the audience noticing.

 

I give “The Brotherhood of the Wolf” 10 out of 10. This is a great film. One thing though, if you have the chance to watch it on DVD, watch it in French with the English subtitles. Some of the films nuances are lost in the English dubbed version. Check it out!

 




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